Monday, May 16, 2011

How Can I Turn Off the Alarm?

Our new alarm

Monday: 5:16 a.m. Tuesday: 5:25 a.m. Wednesday: 4:58 a.m. I wish my alarm would be a little more consistent—and maybe a bit later too, say 6:00 a.m.

But there’s not much I can do about the alarm. It’s not one that I can set or turn off. It’s our newest, early-rising neighbor, a Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis).

I’ve seen a pair of catbirds in our trees, shrubs, and garden for a few weeks. More recently we’ve seen them often near a 10-foot high Crape Myrtle shrub just below our bedroom windows. This week the male began greeting the dawn’s early light from a perch on the roof just above our bedroom windows.

Why do I say the male is the songster?

One of my favorite websites, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, says the whole song of a male can last several minutes and consists of a “long, halting series of short notes…. Sounds include whistles, squeaks, gurgles, whines, and nasal tones. The notes often are imitations of other birds as well as of frogs and mechanical sounds…. Females sing infrequently, and when they do, theirs songs are sung more quietly.”

There’s nothing that can remotely be described as “more quietly” when our songster greets the new day.

The “other birds” phrase in the Cornell Lab’s description of the song makes me smile. The other day Ellen and I were walking in our back yard and heard the songster singing away on his favorite mid-day perch in a nearby maple tree. Suddenly his song included an imitation of a Whip-poor-will. It was an excellent imitation—except it was an octave or two too high. I wonder where in his travels he heard a Whip-poor-will, since I’ve never heard one in this neighborhood.

Are you ready to listen to a Gray Catbird’s song on the Cornell Lab’s website? CLICK HERE and then scroll down a couple of inches and click on the second “Song.”

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